Alternative rock encompassed a wide array of styles; the prime unifying feature consisted of alienation from the pretentions of 1960s art rock, an alienation that found its mouthpiece in the punk explosion. The movement was reconfigured during the postpunk era of the 1980s as an autonomous indie subculture centered around college radio and urban community clubs and broadcasting. The Athens, Georgia-based band, R.E.M., emerged in the mid-1980s as the most commercially successful exponent of indie musical values.
The grunge sound, centered in Seattle in the late 1980s, proved seminal in convincing major record labels to again promote loud rock played by youth not wearing glitter or spandex. While grunge's leading band, Nirvana, disbanded prematurely as a result of leader Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide, the scene continued to flourish on the strength of other talented area bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, and Sunny Day Real Estate.
The alternative sound changed the essential nature of rock from a mass youth music to a particularized, anti-commercial music of bohemia, social marginals of various kinds, and the avant-garde. Not since the days of bebop jazz had pop music been so inclined to anti-pop statements.
By the mid-1990s, however, alternative rock as a whole had become increasingly mainstream in nature. Now referred to as "modern rock" on the radio and in trade publications, the genre was heavily pervaded by power pop (e.g., Teenage Fanclub, The Rembrandts), AOR hard rock (e.g., Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots), and hip hop (e.g., Faith No More, Red Hot Chili Peppers).
Top Artists and Their Recordings
Archers of Loaf--Icky Mettle (1993); Archers of Loaf vs. the Greatest of All Time EP (1994); Vee Vee (1995)
The Descendents--Milo Goes to College (1982); Bonus Fat EP (1987); I Don't Want to Grow Up (1985); Enjoy! (1986); All (1987); Liveage! (1987); Two Things at Once (1987); Hallraker (1988); Somery (1991)
Faith No More--We Care a Lot (1985); Introduce Yourself (1987); The Real Thing (1989); Angel Dust (192); Easy EP (1992); King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime (1995)
Foo Fighters--Foo Fighters (1995); The Color and the Shape (1997)
Fountains of Wayne--Fountains of Wayne (1996); Utopia Parkway (1999)
The Go-Betweens--Send Me a Lullaby (1981); Very Quick on the Eye--Brisbane, 1981 (1982); Before Hollywood (1983); Spring Hill Fair (1984); Metal and Shells (1985); The Able Label Singles (1986); Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986); Tallulah (1987); 16 Lovers Lane (1988); The Peel Sessions EP (1989)
Guided By Voices--Forever Since Breakfast EP (1986); Devil Between My Toes (1987); Sandbox (1987); Self Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia (1989); Same Place the Fly Got Smashed (1990); Propeller (1992); Vampire on Titus (1993); Bee Thousand (1994); Crying Your Knife Away (1994); Box (1995)
Hole--Pretty on the Inside (1991); Live Through This (1994)
Live--The Death of a Dictionary EP (1991); Mental Jewelry (1992); Throwing Copper (1994)
Pavement--Perfect Sound Forever EP (1991); Slanted and Enchanted (1992); Watery, Domestic EP (1992); Westing (By Musket and Sextant (1994); Terror Twilight (1999)
Primus--Suck on This (1990); Frizzle Fry (1990); Sailing the Seas of Cheese (1991); Pork Soda (1993); Tales From the Punchbowl (1995)
Red Hot Chili Peppers--The Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984); Freaky Styley (1985); The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987); The Abbey Road EP (1988); Mother's Milk (1988); Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991); Out in L.A. (1994)
R.E.M.--Chronic Town EP (1982); Murmur (1983); Reckoning (1984); Fables of the Reconstruction (1985); Life's Rich Pageant (1986); Dead Letter Office (1987); Document (1987); Eponymous (1988); Green (1989); Out of Time (1991); Automatic for the People (1992); Monster (1994); New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996); Up (1999)
Soul Asylum--Say What You Will...EP (1984); Made to Be Broken (1986); Time's Incinerator (1986); While You Were Out (1986); Hang Time (1988); Clam Dip & Other Delights EP (1988); Soul Asylum and the Horse They Rode In On (1990); Grave Dancers Union (1992)
Stereolab--Switched on Stereolab (1992); Peng! (1992); Low Fi EP (1993); Space Age Batchelor Pad Music EP (1993); Crumb Duck EP (1993); Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements (1993); Mars Audiac Quintet (1994)
Stone Temple Pilots--Core (1992); Purple (1994); Tiny Music…Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)
Sugar--Copper Blue (1992); Beaster EP (1993); File Under: Easy Listening (1994); Your Favorite Thing EP (1994)
The Sugarcubes--Life's Too Good (1988); Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! (1989); Stick Around for Joy (1992)
They Might Be Giants--They Might Be Giants (1986); Don't Let's Start EP (1987); (She Was a) Hotel Detective EP (1988); Lincoln (1988); They'll Need a Crane EP (1989); Flood (1990); Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (1990); Apollo 18 (1992); John Henry (1994); Back to Skull EP (1994)
Throwing Muses--Throwing Muses (1986); House Tornado (1988); Hunkpapa (1989); The Real Ramona (1991); Red Heaven (1992); University (1995)
Urge Overkill--Strange, I... (1986); Jesus Urge Superstar (1989); Americruiser (1990); Supersonic Storybook (1991); Stull EP (1992); Saturation (1993)
Alice in Chains--Facelife (1990); Sap EP (1992); Dirt (1992); Jar of Flies EP (1993); Unplugged (1997)
Pearl Jam--Ten (1991); Vs. (1993); Vitalogy (1994); Binaural (2000)
Screaming Trees--Other Worlds EP (1985); Clairvoyance (1986); Even If and Especially When (1987); Buzz Factory (1989); Change Has Come EP (1989); Something About Today EP (1990); Uncle Anesthesia (1991); Sweet Oblivion (1992)
Soundgarden--Screaming Life EP (1987); Fopp EP (1988); Ultramega OK (1988); Louder Than Love (1989); Screaming Life/Fopp (1990); Badmotorfinger (1991); Superunknown (1994)